ORGATEC 2012: Green Offices In The Passing Lane

Over 40 % of all the people who are employed go to the office everyday. Consequently, resource management, energy efficiency, and socially acceptable concepts will determine the workplace of tomorrow. Ecology and sustainability are among the central themes that will apply to the office in particular.

That’s reason enough for research and industry to create green office ideas using efficient energy solutions, intelligent systems, and recyclable materials. At ORGATEC 2012 (October 23 to 27, 2012) in Cologne, Germany, leaders will look at these and other relevant workplace trends and solutions for the office.

Key topics include an examination of the following issues:

The working world is changing. Rapid processes, short distances, and high-tech concepts characterize the work environment today. Flexible hours, mobile offices, and changing demographics require new approaches. More mature employees on teams with entry level colleagues should provide the optimal conditions for good performance. At the same time, saving on resources and working efficiently are important to employers. There is a great deal of potential in this area in particular.

New materials, intelligent products, and solutions for creating a positive working environment are a breath of fresh air in the modern office. Factors that not only improve the balance of revenues at the end of the fiscal year but also impact corporate image are driving this change.

The Green Economy is making headway. “The ideal of sustainable development is a value that is known and has been embraced by society,” said Marlehn Thieme, chair of the German Council for Sustainable Development speaking at an event marking the 10th anniversary of the national sustainability strategy of the German federal government. She makes the point, “A company doesn’t compete successfully in spite of sustainable development, but rather because of it. This has been proven by a number of companies, both large and small, in the past few years.”

This trend is reflected in the working world as well as in consumer behavior. “Green Economy” is no longer just a fashionable topic, it has become more of a guiding principle for companies that’s key to their success in the future. Also in focus are themes such as CO2 neutrality, wood materials from sustainable sources, organic labeling, and the physical and emotional health aspects of the workplace. The modern company is defined by its use of production methods and raw materials that protect and preserve the environment and by its use of energy conserving technology.

According to the HR-Report 2011 from the Institut für Beschäftigung und Employability (Institute for Occupation and Employability), which was commissioned by the Hays recruitment service, 38.5% of the 439 executives surveyed rated “encouraging a corporate culture of sustainability” as a central area of activity.

Smart buildings gaining in importance. The theme of sustainability is also increasingly important for buildings. According to the “Offices 2020 Programme” survey from Jones Lang LaSalle, 83% of the decision makers in the real estate sector are of the opinion that sustainability will be a theme of the highest strategic priority for the office space segment in the coming decade.

Benoît du Passage, managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle France and responsible for southern Europe gets right to the point, “Sustainability will very soon be a precondition for a 1A real estate listing. The price difference between green buildings and other buildings will get larger over the next few years. Tenants are also increasingly incorporating the theme of sustainability into their office layout planning. The money saving argument based on lower energy costs when compared to saving on rent in older buildings will become more important.”

Leading companies assume ecological responsibility. More and more companies in the office furniture sector are also making sustainability a business priority. This can be seen in the significant increase in the percentage of recyclable material used in office furniture. Products that can be dismantled into pure constituents, have water based finishes, and don’t contain tropical woods have a positive impact on the ecological balance.

Environmental protection through modular design and building in long service life have become company philosophies for brand name office furniture manufacturers. Deliberately avoiding the use of PVC and superfluous manufacturing materials is also a part of the new mindset. In addition, most of the time manufacturers are only using composite materials where it is absolutely necessary for reasons of safety. The latest photovoltaic installations and water treatment facilities and the recycling of products that are taken back also contribute to the protection of natural resources.

Certification labels as a guarantee of green quality. Product seals and certifications relating to sustainability are becoming increasingly important. However, it is true that these tags and badges are cropping up like weeds, making it more and more difficult to maintain an overview. Therefore, the Öko-Institut e.V. (Institutue for Applied Ecology) has created a rating system for selected product groups based on ecological and social criteria and put certification processes under the microscope. The conclusions were that for the furniture segment the label “ÖkoControl” was rated as being “highly recommended” though that certification is only given for home furniture and not office furniture. Next in line were the seals: “Blauer Engel” (blue angel), the “Österreichisches Umweltzeichen” (Austrian environmental label), the “Europäisches Umweltzeichen” (European environmental label), and “eco-Institut.” They were rated as “recommended” based on their extensive criteria for sustainability. Other important labels are: “FSC” (Forest Stewardship Council), “PEFC” (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes), “LGA-schadstoffgeprüft” (tests furniture for toxic substances and emissions), and “The Golden M” (quality control system of RAL, the National Board for Delivery Conditions).

Environmentally responsible behavior is, of course, inextricably linked to health conscious behavior. This connection is reflected in the label “Quality Office.” In this case, it isn’t so much a test or seal in the strictest sense but rather a certification of quality according to the guidelines set forth in the “Criteria for the Quality of Office Work Spaces” (L-Q 2010). The ecological standards of companies are also documented by acknowledged LCAs (Life Cycle Analysis) using, for example, the criteria defined in EMAS II or ISO 14000.

Sustainable behavior at the office. Of course, big environmental sins will be committed during working hours, just as they always have been. Although, the specific environmental burdens from wood, water, and energy consumption imposed by the paper industry have been reduced over the past 20 years as the percentage of recycled paper material has risen from 49% to 70%, there has been an overall increase in paper consumption, as reported by B.A.U.M. (Bundesdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Umweltbewusstes Management e.V.—German Association of Environmental Management e.V.).

The increase in power consumption of IT equipment in offices is also a major problem. In Germany today, around 3% of total power consumption can be attributed to office machines—and the proportion is increasing. This situation is reason enough for B.A.U.M. to hold its fifth “Büro und Umwelt” (Office and Environment) competition this year. The prize will be awarded during ORGATEC.

Savings in illumination—highlights. There is a big potential for saving in the area of lighting. LED technology and energy saving lamps bring inexpensive light to the office. They also offer a lot of room for creativity in design and layout. ORGATEC 2012’s “Lighting Competence Centre” will demonstrate just how multifaceted the possibilities for the office sector are in the important area of lighting.

In the Lighting Competence Centre, the “Bartenbach LichtLabor” delivers insights under the motto “Lichtwelt Büro” (Light World of the Office). Models and “experience spaces” present the themes “Daylight,” “LED,” “Light and Health,” and “Light and Material.” Exhibitors will also show their latest innovations.

Modern energy saving lighting solutions and lighting regulations have spawned higher quality lighting and lower energy consumption, thereby reducing CO2 emissions. The bottom line is that the energy saving potential in lighting solutions for business spaces has risen to over 30%.

Comfortable atmosphere at the office. But it isn’t just materials and energy efficiency that make for a sustainable work place environment. In modern office concepts, the most important thing is to put the focus on people. After all, “The amount of psychological stress in the work place has increased considerably,” reports the University of Kassel.

That stress can be largely avoided through sustainably designed working systems and respectful treatment, according to the experts at the Conference of the Gesellschaft für Arbeitswissenschaft (GfA) in Kassel. “Presently, more than 10% of work days lost because of employee illness at all levels and across all professions and industries can be attributed to psychological stress at the workplace,” states Dr. Oliver Sträter, industrial and organizational psychologist at the University of Kassel.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, a threefold increase in the number of mental illnesses has been recorded. “Modern working environments need to establish more evolved working cultures and they need good leadership.”

This is a summary of just a few of the concepts that will be presented at ORGATEC (October 23 to 27, 2012) in Cologne.